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'Tearful' Napoles leaves Laguna jail

MANILA, Philippines – Tears were shed the night alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles left her Laguna detention center for a new jail in Taguig city.

But she wasn’t crying because she was afraid or dismayed over a court’s decision to move her to a different jail.

The infamous figure cried, her spokesman said, because her doctors, nurses and guards at the Philippine National Police (PNP) camp took the time to bid her farewell.

“Her past guards, her nurses, and her doctors dropped by to say goodbye; even those who weren’t on duty. It was a farewell because she also became friends with some of them,” lawyer Bruce Rivera told Rappler in a phone interview. Rivera is also Napoles’ spokesman.

Napoles has been under detention in Fort Sto Domingo since September 1, 2013, for kidnapping charges. On July 25, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ordered the transfer of Napoles from the police camp to a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Taguig city.

“[Mrs. Napoles] was really touched, that’s why she teared up last night,” said Rivera.

At around 11:20 pm on Monday, Napoles arrived at the National Capital Region Police Office’s Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig. Inside the police camp is a BJMP facility where Napoles now stays.

Napoles faces plunder and graft charges before 3 Sandiganbayan divisions for allegedly pocketing millions of pesos through fake projects and bogus non-governmental organizations. Also charged over the “pork barrel scam” are Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr, and several other former government officials.

‘We’re okay’

From being “shocked” and “saddened” over the court’s decision, Rivera said Napoles’ family and legal team are now “okay” with her transfer. “Initially, [Mrs Napoles] was scared [because] of Camp Bagong Diwa’s bad reputation,” said Rivera.

Their camp, Rivera explained, is not seeking “VIP” or special treatment for Napoles. “Our concerns are really just about the security and medical facilities,” he said.

“After we saw the facilities and the BJMP assured us of her safety, we were okay,” Rivera added. Besides, he quipped, Camp Bagong Diwa is more accessible to both Napoles’ legal team and her family.

After going through the BJMP’s admission procedures, Rivera said Napoles settled into a Taguig jail cell. She’s alone for now, although Rivera said she could share the room with other new inmates.

Napoles’ co-accused in the scam, Enrile’s former chief of staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes is also detained in the Taguig jail female dormitory but Rivera said it is unlikely that the two have seen each other.

Best defense for Napoles

Rivera is only one of Napoles’ many lawyers. Another team of lawyers handles her case before the Sandiganbayan, while Rivera is lead counsel for her serious illegal detention case.

With at least 4 cases keeping her behind bars, Rivera admits they’re not in a hurry to get Napoles out of jail through bail. “We don’t think about that. Instead, we want to keep her safe and secure. And we are steadfast in what we’re saying: that we’re telling the truth.”

Napoles has tried – in vain – to ask a Makati court to grant her bail

Scam whistleblowers accuse Napoles of being the mastermind behind the scam – a claim she refutes. During a Senate probe into the scam, Napoles claimed she knew nothing about it.

A few months later, however, Napoles had a change of heart. During a meeting with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima at the Ospital ng Makati, Napoles said she wanted to “tell all.” She also made a bid to turn state witness, which was eventually shot down by the Ombudsman.

“We want to give her the best possible defense she can get. We don’t want to rush her cases because we know that as much as possible, the government wants her detained,” said Rivera.

Hindi naman namin siya binibigyan ng hope na makakaalis siya (We don't give her false hope that she would be free to go),” added her lawyer.  

Still, Rivera said his client is anything but dejected. “She’s always been a jovial person. She just makes the best of it." –